How to Sanpai: A Quick Guide To Visiting a Japanese Shinto Shrine
Shinto shrines are some of the coolest places to visit when in Japan. However, figuring out what one should and shouldn't do when visiting these sacred places can be confusing. Here is a quick guide on how to respectfully visit a Japanese shrine.
Entering the jinja
Washing your hands
1. Hold the dipper in your right hand and fill it with water (from the spout, not the basin)
2. Pour water to rinse your left hand
3. Take the dipper in your left hand, and pour water to rinse your right hand
4. Switch the dipper back to your right hand, and pour water into your cupped left hand
5. Rinse your mouth with the water from your left hand (never drink directly from the dipper!), and then spit this water into the trough next to the basin.
6. Return the dipper
Praying at the sanctuary
1. If there's an offering box, it's a good idea to put a coin in. You can then ring the bell by pulling on the rope (if there is one).
2. Bow twice, clap your hands twice, and then stand with your hands together in prayer.
3. Bow one more time before walking away.
Things to keep in mind
-Many Japanese people think that it is good luck to use a 5 yen coin as an offering. This is because in Japanese, 五円 (five yen) is pronounced 'go en,' which is the same pronunciation as the word ご縁 (fate/destiny). Because of this, many people will save their 5 yen coins for going to shrines. However, the shrine would, of course, prefer a larger donation.
-Taking pictures in most shrines is okay, unless otherwise posted. Keep an eye out for no photography signs, but otherwise feel free to snap away.
The traditional way to get your fortune is to draw a stick out of the large metal or wood cylinder (like that shown in the picture above), and then find the numbered drawer that corresponds to the number written on the stick. You then open the drawer and take out your fortune. There are sometimes other ways to get your omikuji, however, including just reaching into a box and pulling one out.
吉 -This kanji is pronounced 'kichi' and means 'good fortune.'
凶 -This kanji is pronounced 'kyou,' and means 'bad fortune'
These two kanji will appear by themselves, or paired with other kanji which modify them such as 大 (dai), meaning 'big' or 小 (shou), meaning small.
Hence, 大吉 (daikichi) is the best fortune that you can get, whereas 大凶 (daikyou) is the worst.
If the result is good (has the kanji 吉), put the fortune in your wallet, or take it home.
If the result is bad (has the kanji 凶), tie the fortune somewhere in the shrine. You'll see strings of next to the omikuji boxes for this purpose (don't tie the bad fortune to a tree branch).
Exiting the shrine
- I live in west Tokyo and spend most of my time thinking about food or going bouldering.